Job creation for Ghana’s music industry

As early as 1965, my father Faisal Helwani identified a huge gap in Ghana’s music and entertainment industry so he tried to fill it. He started out as a music promoter – the guy who puts on the shows. His love and passion for music led him around Ghana; encouraging, supporting, and promoting artists and bands. He broke out into mainstream Africa and landed a promotion deal with Fela Anikulapo Kuti of Nigeria. The two became very close friends and worked on some major projects like ‘The Black President’ film which was tragically cut short by the burning of the entire soundtrack at Fela’s shrine. Some scenes from the original film are currently being used, and I hope, after all the court proceedings and ‘sorting out’.. that the film sees the light of day. My father set up his own record label and opened the famous Napoleon Club and Casino in the early 70’s. ‘Napoleon Club’ became the name of the large house/complex in which we lived. It was right in the heart of Osu, the buzzing heart of Accra. Our home occupied the top floors, the Club/Restaurant/Casino had it’s own entrance from the side street, sound proofing and all; and just next to the club was Studio One which later became Bibini Music. Studio One (Faisal Helwani Productions) – the first professional recording studio in Accra produced records by E.T. Mensah, Agya Koo Nimo, Kobina Okai, Onipa Nua, Kofi Sammy, Guy Warren (Ghanaba), the list goes on and on. My father was fearless. Nothing was too big for him. Everything was too small! Yet he stood at a not-so-high 5ft 4inches. I later realized this might have been his motivation for calling it the Napoleon club πŸ™‚

Within 10 years, Faisal Helwani had not only become THE Ghanaian music industry, he had also created his own Entertainment Empire hosting superstars like Fleetwood Mac, Fela, and even getting an album endorsement by the legendary Brian Eno for the album ‘Pace Setters’ by Edikanfo. Brian Eno’s endorsement led to big show opportunities in the United States where Faisal travelled with the band for shows in top venues like Beverly Hills and New York. He even had time to involve himself in all the latest industry politics that arose with the inception of his brainchild – MUSIGA (Musicians Union of Ghana) and later COSGA (Copyright Owners Society of Ghana). He had arrived. He was on top. But he was not sustainable. The producer was Faisal Helwani. The agent was Faisal Helwani. The promoter was Faisal Helwani. The politician was Faisal Helwani and the spokesperson was also Faisal Helwani. Do you get where this is going? He was great, he was celebrated, but he had also become anxious, stressed and exhausted in more ways than one. At some point in his 5o year long career,Β  he would become outdated, out-smarted, and eventually, out-numbered.

Faisal and Fleetwood Mac

My father’s story is a lesson for every prospective Entertainment Mogul. Make it sustainable! At some point in our music industry we must create industry jobs to ensure healthy growth in the music industry. We have progressed considerably over the last 10 years with a rise in the ‘manager count’ thanks to the emergence of new acts and trends. Still, most of the time, you find Artists multi-tasking and doubling up as their own promoters/agents which inevitably drags down their value. Many artists are creative but not necessarily the best negotiators or business people. they end up striking bad deals, not doing enough fore-planning, and next thing you know, they are flopping at one show or the other.

It’s time we take our music industry a little more seriously than just putting it off as ‘this playful thing called music’. We are not even properly represented in the Ghanaian constitution. If it weren’t for my father’s parliamentary wars we probably would still be operating under replica clauses from the PNDC rule! We need to create jobs and we the artists need to help sustain these jobs by growing creatively, dedicating ourselves to our music, and working hard on our Art. That is what an artist is supposed to do not run around radio stations trying to lobby to get their song on air! Don’t even get me started.

In my next post I will talk more about the individual job descriptions, and how to go about starting a career in the music industry. One love.

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Orchids make me smile :)

Gardening gives me joy. Seeing those plants, flowers, trees, and crops grow is a very fulfilling thing for me. Recently I moved out into the countryside and my new garden is slowly taking shape. My favorite flowers are Orchids; I find them to be extremely special, very classy,Β  high maintenance, and sometimes require ages of patience before you get to see a single flower. In this part of the world, tropical Dendrobium orchids do amazingly well (go figure πŸ™‚ so I started slipping into my Orchid addiction a couple of years ago. It was actually an infection passed on from my mum, she is crazy about them!

I started growing Orchids just around the time my dog Goldie had her 7 puppies. Cute, but not so cute for the flowers! These puppies had some special attraction to Orchids. They would rip them right out of the pots, play with them, chew on them.. and they carried out this special activity only late at night when I was asleep or in the wee hours of the morning. I have cried over many a lost Orchid. Some of the pups moved on to new homes and finally after raising many pots (above puppy level) and trying to impose some discipline around here I’ve decided to give it my best shot once again.

Here is a picture of one of my very first bloomers:

I hope some Orchid specialists will see this and help me name my orchids by type and species (which is my next project if I ever find the time).

This one here came in early November:

Dendrobium Orchid

This next one is my latest bloomer, she started blooming the week of Christmas 2011 and she’s still here.. although looking a little frail now.

Christmas 2011

Orchids make me smile πŸ™‚

Health is wealth. A must read for the presumed Diabetic.

Diabetes is a silent killer and is becoming an epidemic in Ghana. An alarming case study showed that 2.2 million Ghanaians are now living with the disease, and every 10 seconds, someone dies from Diabetes.Β  My father died from it; my mother is living with it, and I’ve lost other family members to this illness. One of the most dangerous characteristics about Diabetes is that it can be present for a long time without showing any unusual symptoms and one could carry on with life for quite a long time before discovering the presence of the disease. As if that is not enough, it is also a pre-condition for other complications like heart disease and cancer, so people! Let’s wake up to the facts! Wake up and taste the sugar people!

I always wondered why I was always overweight. I was born almost 10lbs and have never been skinny a day in my life.Β  Growing up, I would put on weight very easily compared to some of my slimmer friends who could eat almost anything they wanted, and then when I hit my 20’s my weight sky-rocketed. People would refer to me as the ‘fat singer’ or ‘that fat Lebanese girl’. That didn’t do very much for my self esteem. I didn’t understand what was happening to my body. I was eating all the wrong foods, and seriously lacking the vitamins my body really needed.

Glucose intolerance is mostly a genetic condition. Most of the time it is inherited through family lines but can also be induced through bad lifestyles e.g. over-consumption of sugar and processed foods. The hike in the number of Diabetics in Ghana has been attributed mainly to the shift from eating traditional and natural foods to eating packaged and processed foods, and foods that contain high levels of chemicals and gene-altering preservatives. I came across this information via a TV program and that’s when I started doing my research. Boom! I had discovered why I was so fat! I was glucose intolerant. A simple piece of information like this could prevent a lifetime of disease and frustration. My body was not processing sugars the way it should so I constantly had excess deposits of sugar in my blood which meant more fat, and more pressure on my organs. This would then lead to other physical and hormonal changes and risks of becoming Diabetic, having heart disease and more scary stuff. After some check-ups, I’ve been diagnosed as pre-diabetic but there is good news.. This condition can be reversed! Even though you cannot reverse type 1 Diabetes you can reverse pre-diabetes that occurs due to obesity, bad lifestyle e.t.cΒ  by losing weight, eating healthy, exercising and implementing a complete lifestyle change. Another thing is, getting your blood sugar levels to normal doesn’t mean you can start eating anything you like or going back to your old ways. Glucose intolerance is a lifetime condition so you must always try to keep a healthy lifestyle..

Don’t give up! I know how hard it is living with PCOS or Diabetes but there truly are ways to fight the condition and to live a healthy and normal life. So far I’ve lost 10 Kg and I do have really hard days, but I’m not giving up! I love the organic lifestyle and I’ve been living a very natural life for the last 5 years. This has helped greatly with the weight loss. In my home garden, I have important greens like the African Bitter Leaf, and Dandelion which I have incorporated into my diet. I will write more about these herbs later as they are very important in the life of a Diabetic. Hopefully I can use my influence to educate more people in Ghana about Diabetes because prevention is always the way to go. It is also cheaper! Consider an estimated $120 – $400 per year for managing the disease at the earlier stages, as opposed to the estimated $9,000 a year if the Diabetic has progressed and needs Dialysis. $400/year and a normal life or $9,000/year and never-ending Dialysis trips. Which do you prefer? We can make a change through education, awareness, but most of all, inspiration! Your diet doesn’t need to be boring. You may actually grow to love it. I’ll leave you with a mouth-watering picture of the Dandelion and Avocado salad I had this morning. The recipe is posted below. πŸ™‚

Ingredients:

1 ripe Avocado Pear

1 small onion

2 tomatoes

Dandelion leaves

Garlic

Salt

Apple Cider Vinegar

Few drops of Lemon juice (optional)

Directions: Chop everything up and mix in a bowl.Β  Add a little salt and try as much as possible to use Apple Cider Vinegar specifically.

Enjoy!

Happy New Year, Happy New Blog!

Last year my old blog got hacked along with a couple of my other online accounts. Blogging via my personal website is not so easy, so I did a bit of research on the web’s top rated blog sites. WordPress has a lot of great reviews, and, I’ve also seen some friends referring to it, so here I am! πŸ™‚

Over the just-ended Christmas season I had loads of fun doing what I love – performing, and running my small business. We successfully opened the Yasmeen Store in Accra, and I had some very successful shows and appearances. 2011 ended on a great note and I’m thankful for all my blessings.

I look forward to bringing you (hopefully) interesting posts in my lifestyle blog i.e. this one.. on my journey to quench my in-satiable hunger and thirst for the naturally beautiful things in life πŸ™‚

One Love.

Music, Motherhood, and Lifestyle.